Ouse Washes Experience – What a great event it was

logosThis Sunday the long-awaited Ouse Washes Experience was held, a cycle, walk or run from WWT Welney reserve to RSPB Welches Dam.

What a great day it was! My colleague Abby was there all day with display and leaflets at WWT Welney, and then helping the main organisers, the Ely Hereward Rotary Club, with serving participants some well-deserved teas and biscuits at the end of the journey.

A total of c. 60 people participated, mainly on bicycle, some groups walking and a few runners. Not bad at all for an entirely new event and for an area where similar events have simply never been organised before. All in all, a great day out in the countryside, getting people to see a part of their world most participants had not seen yet (but, according to the people I spoke to, they certainly enjoyed!).

I also joined an interesting discussion with MP Steve Barclay who showed up in the morning at WWT Welney; he commented on how great such initiatives are for getting people to use the countryside and explore the wonderful landscape in this area.

I did the c. 6 mile run myself as well, on the Environment Agency maintenance track (specifically opened up for cyclists and walkers for this event) and partly on top of the bank along the Ouse Washes itself  – great views over the landscape and a wonderful tranquil experience.

Well done everyone and all organisations who have made this event possible – see you again next year!

Registration point (2)

Registration at WWT Welney Centre. Image: Emma Brand, WWT

Steve Barclay, Mark Nokkert and John Yates (8)

MP Steve Barclay, John Yates (Ely Hereward Rotary Club), and myself, ready to run. Image: Emma Brand, WWT.

Sharing some images of this great day with you here:

Cycle participants starting (9)

Participants starting their cycle ride or walk from WWT Welney. Image: Emma Brand, WWT

 

 

 

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Arrival at Welches Dam, the RSPB Ouse Washes reserve.

 

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Ted Coney, our oldest participant, just arrived at Welches Dam.

 

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Group of walkers from Specsavers in March, walking for the Each Anglia charity just arriving after a long walk.

 

Walking for work: Mixing business with pleasure

LogosI took the day off from my summer placement with the Ouse Washes: The Heart of the Fens – A Landscape Partnership Scheme (OWLP) to mix pleasure and business. I went on the Woodman’s Way walk at March and Wimblington, which is just outside the OWLP area. I found this walk on the Great Fen Project’s website and wanted to attend as it was around where I live and ride my pony on and would like to become more involved and to meet and enjoy the countryside with other people.

I also wanted to promoted OWLP and unleash my journalistic powers so came with a camera for this blog. I had already written my blog on part of the walk.

Our starting point at iconic St Wendreda of March

Our starting point at the iconic St Wendreda church of March

We started off with a scenic and historic meeting and brief lecture at St. Wendreda Church in March with the walk leader, Adrian Kempster, who informed us of the importance of the church because of its saint, an Anglo-Saxon princess who had healing powers, and the angel roof carvings. Being of the local tribe with these ramblers who never or rarely have been in the area, I was asked about directions by Adrian and we all went off at a jolly energetic pace. I quickly met a local March Ramblers’ leader assistant whose responsibility was to supervise for those lagging behind and we talked a lot on our way round. I was taking the photographs and I never considered myself as an amateur photographer before, so skills were also expanded from this walking experience.

Jolly start off under Fenland skyline onto farmland to the dismantled railway line

Jolly start off up track past the Neale-Wade Academy of March under Fenland skyline onto farmland to the dismantled railway line

To set the scene, the Woodman’s Way brought us through ancient wooded islands of March and Wimblington, which is reflected by the names we came across – Eastwood, Linwood, Hatchwood and Coneywood. From the unsteady track that took us away from the town, we entered the dismantled old railway line that is now a densely and diversely wooded and vegetated all along except when separated by tracks that remind us of the surrounding expansive arable landscape. We spotted interesting features along the way, including a horse paddock and variation in the track.

Down into an important and economic area of mixed land use

Down into an important and economic area of mixed land use near Hook Lane, Wimblington

We then took a detour into the industrialised farming area next to the Fengrain plant, down interesting enclosed footpaths, next to a plant nursery, into a village rife with farming activities followed by a lovely long and tree-lined loop back towards the path alongside the arable field next to the plant. Such tours offer a view of the important farming and horticultural economy in the Fenland. We then moved onto another diverse but not so densely wooded and vegetated track that has more challenging terrain.

In the real working and living Fenland countryside

In the real working and living Fenland countryside

We soon crossed the busy A141 bypass and were given sanctuary in the lovely St Peter church of Wimblington by the friendly people at the church and rested in the graveyard.

Exploring the Wimblington church of St Peter during our rest

Exploring the Wimblington church of St Peter during our rest

Refreshed and relieved, we set off at that same pace which puts strolling to shame into the village of Wimblington, which has a comprehensive range of services, across a large green then down a footpath into the outside village area (of Wimblington) towards March. We were soon travelling behind the houses (one of which is mine!) down another dense and diversely wooded and vegetated but narrower and grassier track, which is a byway. We came across a modern farmstead and lovely golf course, passed horse places and a deer farm before we crossed another byway with busy traffic. The track then lead us from farming and horses into a housing area of March. We interestingly went on a footpath alongside a house which led us onto a well hedged farmland with a ditch full of reed and other plants.

On the way back over farmland and next to different field boundaries

On the way back over farmland and next to different field boundaries next to March

From this, we worked our way behind urban settings to cross the graveyard church of St Wendreda and back to our cars.

My new friend kindly gave me and my worked legs a lift to our much needed refreshments at Weatherspoons in March.Afterwards, the tour was led to explore the March town. It had been a hot day but with a reasonable breeze and cloud cover so was favourable weather that encouraged a good turnout on this monthly (Wednesday) walk – the next Great Fen Local Group Ramble is on 12th November at Holme Fen!

I enjoyed the experience as I learnt more about my local environment, had some endorphins-boosting and rather energetic exercise and met some lovely people. This is all of the photogenic group modelling for me at our resting point in Wimblington!

The gang

The gang at St Peter church of Wimblington

Other related posts on nearby circular walks:

Mepal

Manea

Other circular walks in the area (near Wimblington):

Doddington

Dismantled railway line turned into great bridleway near March

 

In Logosmy introductory blog posted on the 18th July 2014, I mentioned a favourite ride on the old railway line that was taken out and transformed into a fabulous and popular public right of way.

Enjoying the old railway track

Enjoying the old railway track

The path is just outside March, which lies just outside the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area but is near Manea and within the wider Fenland area, and is therefore typical of the local tourism, recreational and countryside scene.

This dismantled railway line used to run from Chatteris, through Wimblington – which had its station that is now demolished – to March on the line from London to Kings Lynn, it ran from 1879 to the 1990s: http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/w/wimblington/

The railway track was always important and regularly used by passengers and freight until the numbers of trains dwindled and the track then persisted as a diversion route. The A141 bypass now follows the line to the south to Chatteris and bypasses Wimblington and Doddington. There are quite a lot of railway lines in East Anglia that have fallen out of use and become public rights of ways or have been preserved as historic artefacts – there’s a disused railway line at Somersham Nature Reserve, where there is also a lake following gravel extraction for the railway. You can read more about it here.

The railway line ride is part of Woodman’s Way and legally a footpath but it is signed as a permissive bridleway, which means the land owner has given permission for it to be used as a bridleway but this permission can be withdrawn at any time. It is a 2 mile ride to Wimblington from March.

The signpost and surrounding landsacpe

The signpost and surrounding landscape

A map of the circular route is in the Cambridgeshire County Council’s leaflet, which has other information about the area, including historical facts. Visit this link.

I usually go down the railway line as part of a circular route that includes carefully crossing the A141 Isle of Ely bypass to and from Wimblington and most of the route shown in the leaflet – I can only go down Knight End Road on my pony! – but occasionally I go one way then back, sometimes both at fast paces! I usually pass several other users so I am always careful. At the March end, it is accessible by a rough byway track that also continues onto the farmland. The choice is nice but I often do take the railway line because it offers a nice canter and interesting ride that is rich with butterflies and birds and has a verge of wildflowers, shrubs and grasses with the trees either side.

Mysterious and green way!

Many species of trees line the path and partly obscure the views of open arable land and a horse pasture. The trees are typical of the higher and drier areas of fenland (e.g hawthorn, willow and oak) on the clay hills of March, Wimblington and Doddington and represent the wildwood that surrounded the area inbetween deforestation and raised water levels over the last few thousands years. The varying types of trees of similar heights make the ride spectacular and fun – you would have to duck under some branches and ride along many features and shapes of trees. The ground is in good condition most of the way with little grass and became rough with trampling, wear and wet in a few places so good footwear is recommended. Some of the ground has been covered with bark surface by the community service to improve the surface enjoyed by riders, cyclists and walkers.

Other related posts on nearby circular walks:

Mepal

Manea

Other circular walks in the area (near Wimblington):

Doddington

Summer placement volunteer started!

LogosHello, I am Lizzie Bannister and I am a new volunteer working for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership on a summer placement, which is a great way to get back into the environmental sector and make use of what I learnt during my degrees in conservation studies. I enjoyed working hard on Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve and Hinchingbrooke Country Park in past summers so this office-based landscape project management work is a great progression for me.

I believe in working to promote and preserve our countryside for its many uses and as a valuable resource, so am interested in the many aspects like recreation, nature and agriculture associated with the landscape. Promoting the landscape, which I will also be doing on this placement, is important to me because through education and awareness-raising, principles can be properly upheld.

My background includes horses, farming and healthcare so I have understanding of different interests and needs involved. My research I did for my degrees also demonstrate the importance of natural cover and features that can moderate some climate change impacts on nature reserves and farmland, which also support other benefits like providing larger areas of vegetation for wildlife movement. I am thrilled to continue to work for a landscape that is local to me and with local communities, which will create a healthier place for its people and wildlife that can last into the future. I hope to gain work experience and to learn more, so I can continue to help improve and maintain places for us to live in and work with. I really appreciate the washes’ extensive grasslands with its opportunities and uses like flood storage and grazing, and interesting features that catch the eye and increase the value of land conservation.

Cattle at Mepal

Cattle grazing along the Washes at Mepal – image by Pete Johnstone for Cambridgeshire ACRE

Sutton 1

Flood water contained away from houses at Sutton Gault – image by Pete Johnstone for Cambridgeshire ACRE

Me and my Irish cob enjoy the farmland and its tracks, tree lines, copses, ditches and hedgerows where we see plenty of wildlife. One of our favourite rides is an old railway track that now serves as a byway lined by trees – see more about this in another blog! Travelling between towns and villages brings me to great views and features of the Fenland countryside and to appreciate its valuable food production role alongside the retained natural features that could be enhanced. I like to see and encourage use of these multifunctional lands and natural resourses by various people like cyclists, dog walkers and fishermen and many local businesses and activities that support the economy and society.

I actively work for the bigger picture of integrated, multi-beneficial and sustainable land uses that work with the wider landscape and enable wildlife to thrive and people to lead healthier lives, which I experience personally and understand academically.